Building Empowered Teams with Joseph Young 

Joseph Young is a Software Solutions Architect, founder and CEO of Kuvio Creative, a software, design, branding, and marketing company. They are location-independent agency serving clients throughout the world.






Inside This Episode:

  • Lead Through Relationships, Not Roles
  • Creating More Results With Less Effort
  • Increasing Commitment Through Emergent Culture
  • Developing Your Mission, Vision, and Values
  • Stop Erasing the Majority of Your Company
  • Getting Into The Zone at 30,000 Feet
  • Creating A Self-Engaged Workforce
  • If You Want to Get, Learn to Give
  • Global Deference in Creating Empowerment
  • How Defining Your Own Title Creates Ownership

John Ryan
You're listening to key conversations for leaders. This is episode number 29. Welcome everybody. In today's episode, we're gonna be discussing building empowered teams with Joseph young. We talked about how to lead through relationships, not roles, getting into the zone at 30,000 feet and creating a self engaged workforce and much, much more.

John Ryan 0:22
Leadership is about vision. It's about creating a vision and sharing that vision with others in a way that inspires them to walk with you towards fulfillment. And along the way, as leaders, we encourage, motivate, guide, and even challenge people to bring their best each and every day. And it's all done through conversations. That's what this show is about better conversations for better leaders, everybody.

John Ryan 0:46
Welcome to key conversations for leaders. I'm your host, John Ryan. And today we have a very special guest, Joseph young. Joseph is a software solutions architect, founder and CEO of kuvo, creative a software design, branding and marketing company, and they are location independent agency serving clients throughout the world. Welcome to the show, Joseph.

Joseph Young 1:06
Thank you. Thanks for having me.

John Ryan 1:08
Thanks for being here. I just want to know if you wouldn't mind starting with, you know, just telling us a little bit about your story. And how did you get started with Kuvio? How did that all come about?

Joseph Young 1:18
Oh, gosh, I mean, I could start all the way back to my childhood, as probably can most people. So as a child, I was a I was a self taught piano player that was kind of my entire childhood was built around music. And one thing that I've kind of noticed over the years, as I've done reflection about my life is that I feel like the, the big pattern that I picked up there with, with music and with teaching myself how to play piano was that I was always just very fascinated in patterns and things that were beautiful it Mike, oh, this particular sequence of events, that sounded really good, I must have hit upon something. And that just took me all the way through childhood, because I was constantly fascinated. And that became my passion and my motivation for continuing with music.

Joseph Young 2:04
Then sort of my life took a turn and I became rebellious last year in my high school and kind of lost all my scholarships and my kind of typical path. And for whatever reason, ended up joining the military joining the Air Force, because I was interested in aviation, and I wanted to do air traffic control. unbeknownst to me, or maybe be noticed, to me kind of unconsciously, air traffic control, the entire career is about patents, right? It's about you've got 30 planes flying in how do you put them together in a particular way so that everybody's safe, and that it flows well, and, and things like that. And so I really, really enjoyed it. But that was also sort of my first foray into what is the adult life look like. And in the military taught me sort of, you know, in a, this is all that I knew, right? So it taught me, Well, looks like the adult life is just pure bureaucracy and a bunch of politics and people in charge that probably shouldn't be in charge, because they've been there longer. And this weird sort of, you know, fixed hierarchy of power, that like, unless you know, you know, powerful people, yourself, or you do good on tests, you're never going to be able to leverage your own talents in a way that will get you anywhere, unless you spend 30 years there to try to get there. Right. And so that kind of started, you know, guiding my my thoughts on things. But the last half of my military career has been completely overseas, I went to South Korea, and then spent four years in Italy, and did six months in interact as well. And every one of those places, was at a Korean or Italian or Iraqi base. So we were working side by side with with coworkers that were, you know, either military civilian of that, and this was sort of my first foray into, Oh, my gosh, now I have co workers that are not in charge of me that don't have the same sort of power structure. But I but we're working together and in some cases, I'm in charge, in some cases, you know, they're in charge, how do we, how do I interact in this situation?

Joseph Young 4:09
You know, if I'm in a leadership position, now that I have the ability to do something, what do I do about it? And what was so interesting about it is that the best possible thing that always worked was also somehow the simplest All I had to do with step back and let them give them the space to find their own path right. And whatever it was that I had the power in that particular situation to do, all I had, all I could do was give them the space to do that, right, which is basically the opposite of what most sort of managerial positions are, which is like dictate dictate dictate until you finally you know, get your working day to a point that is productive, right according to the you know, managerial dictates. But in this case, it was like, that's not leading anywhere, because it's just putting all of the onus of, of what the definition of productivity is on the very people who have stopped doing that job, or who have never done that job in the first place. Instead of putting it on, instead of just giving people the space to find their own path and define their own talents, and to really like, Hone themselves and figure out what they're passionate about and what they do best. And so I ended up with, with this sort of topsy turvy relationship with, with, particularly the Italian switch, because I was there for four years, that was completely different than most of my coworkers, because most of them were sort of still in the mindset of, we're Americans, we're going to come in and inject our culture, and we're going to inject our things. And you know, it's our way and we're going to, you know, Institute this kind of power structure. And so, at the same time that I was getting a lot of flack from the American side for like not doing, you know, the typical sort of power structure way, I was getting awards and things from the Italians, who were saying, Why chanting mericans act like this, like, like, like, finally, we figured out we can, we feel like we are able to work successfully in our own country in our own base without this kind of American oversight. And so that taught me a lot, then, you know, the next kind of phase was, I was done with the military was done with their traffic, and I wanted to switch careers.

Joseph Young 6:33
And so I switched into the software, which I'd kind of dabbled with in my childhood. Same thing, right. So I'm thinking, Oh, my gosh, I'm going to leave this power structure, there's never going to be politics again, all I have to do is just do my job well, and immediately, I'll be in charge of a whole bunch of things, right? Obviously, that's not the way it works, right? So, but it's the dial down level of the military. And so, so I spent a few years at a couple of jobs, just being a normal software developer, and saw the same freaking patterns again, right, which is, you've got a bunch of people in charge, those people are dictating, you know, mission and values, and all of these kind of arbitrary things, you've got a bunch of people that are doing the actual work, which is the majority of the company, and those people are just lost, everybody is lost, because they are, they're in this weird space, where they're there, they're waiting for middle management to tell them what to do. But also, middle management has no idea how to tell them what to do. And so they're just kind of stuck, right. And, and they get used to that. And, you know, I was in the same place, I got used to this notion of, well, if I can't find my own path, if I'm going to have to learn, you know, this wheel, weird world of politics to find my own path, then then I guess all that's that I have to do is, you know, to just wait for middle management, and I guess the company is somehow surviving with a bunch of people who just have no, no real, you know, direction. And finally, you know, long story short, I got frustrated with it enough, that I realized that the only real way that I was gonna be able to run the experiments that I wanted to run in, in a company was to, was to break free from that and, and try to start. And so that's what I did. And you know, from the beginning, we're, we we've just tried to do everything kind of topsy turvy from the from the traditional way, we've been 100% remote from the very beginning.

Joseph Young 8:38
And that's as of five years ago, we put in 30 Hour Workweek, from the very beginning, all of these things that I was always constantly frustrated with, with my industry going, you know, 50 hours a week, 60 hours a week is is common, because they're trying to squeeze as much out of it as possible. And so we just tried to do the opposite. Because I had this inkling that there was a combination of patterns that was completely opposite from what most people were doing, that put together would actually work better than what most people were doing. And we're still here five years later. So that's that's the start in a, you know, in a in a nutshell,

John Ryan 9:22
Well, I really appreciate you weaving all those pieces together because they do when you look at them and they certainly are reflected in your values as described on on your site. And I can see as you're telling the story, yeah. Okay, this I could see how this comes in. And so thank you for sharing us that that history. And there's so many different paths I want to go just based on that story alone. It's so fun to even even the music connection, which is which is fascinating, because life is patterns and the air traffic controller thing I want. I want to pause for a moment on the the doing the opposite, you know, I think might have been Sam Walton who said, you know, strategy is doing the opposite of what everyone else does. or something to that extent? And and if it's not right, someone, let me know who actually said that. But but it sounds like you're taking that idea to do the opposite. So instead of 60, you're doing 30, that one would look at that and say, well, that's 25%, you know, reduction in productive hours. But I'm guessing the differences is that you're making it up in terms of engagement, and that people are bought in is that, yeah, how does that work?

Joseph Young 10:30
From a productivity perspective, the whole thing does, that's exactly the paradox, right. And so you're starting to see, companies, I feel like, there was there was a big study in Japan of a few companies who tried to do this, like jump down to a 30 Hour Workweek, and they, they actually had productivity measures that they were measuring. And they saw of like a 40% increase in productivity, with a 25%, decrease in hours. And I think what that is all pointing to is that what we have lost sight of, is the balance between our work and our life, and that our brains can only do so much. And our brains are powerful, and they're beautiful. And they were able to find, you know, beautiful things, and we're able to chase our visions, but only if we're given the space to and us being in a creative industry, rather than you know, but I mean, I feel like this applies to even non creative industries as well.

Joseph Young 11:30
The most important thing time and time again, it's that when it is time for us to solve a really hard problem, we are all in a good enough headspace that we can actually solve that problem in the best possible way, rather than just solve the problem in in, you know, in a quick shortcut way to say that it's solved and to get the money for it. That just does not last. I mean, it just doesn't Yeah, so the the, you know, it just goes back to that paradox of, like you said, doing the opposite, right, giving the space and then just seeing what happens, and what happens is for people life starts coming first. But now that live starts coming first, when they do come to work, it is a conscious choice for them to be there. And then and now that work is kind of secondary to their lives. Now they get the space to find, what is it I want to I want to contribute to like, where do my passions guide me. And then when that starts happening, then the best possible thing you can do is just get away, right? And, and and allow for that, that that space, right? It's just all about space, most people are trying to control that space. But you have to do the opposite, right? Give it away, do that do that paradoxical thing that doesn't make sense from a, you know, total hours of productivity mindset, and realize that we're all human beings, right? And that, that the vast majority, probably of the products that you are building as a business or the services you're offering, the value comes from that 1% you know, of eureka moments that happen when people are in those those particular kinds of head spaces.

Joseph Young 13:14
And when you have an entire team that is just doing eureka moment after eureka moment, after eureka moment, it stops mattering, that they're not working 60 hours, right? So um, there, there is a light at the end of that tunnel. And that light even make sense. If all you're looking at is the finances or the hours or anything like that. You just have to trust that processing and and wait for it to get there and wait for kind of the culture and the mindset to reset. And then suddenly, you're in a completely different world.

John Ryan 13:44
Like I can see all those pieces really coming together in terms of you have individual you have the environment, the demands of the workplace, does the values the mission, the vision, do they still come into play to set the direction for the team? Is that is that so important in your type of workspace?

Joseph Young 14:06
Um, it is. It's It's funny, just just probably three weeks ago, right? We're five years into Coolio. And just three weeks ago, we had a team wide, let's figure out my mission and values and vision. It wasn't from the very beginning. Like this is my vision and I'm going to dictate it and you know, and let's let's put a bunch of posters on the wall that say, you know, customers are always right. There's their I feel like it does. Um, it does guide the culture. But I feel like this is another one of those things that I feel like people get opposite because they instead of dictating the culture that you build naturally should reveal your mission and vision. And the perfect example of this is I kind of started realizing two or three years into Kuvio That, even though we build ourselves as a software design company or marketing company, we kind of in the same way that, you know, you hear that Amazon is not a books company, they're a logistics company. And McDonald's is not a food company, they're a real estate company. And, and there's a kind of an interior thing, we are not any of those things.

Joseph Young 15:21
So those are those products are not us, what we are is a process company. And so from the very beginning, our pure focus internally has been on running experiments to get that process, right to figure out the actual way to get out of people's way and let people's talents shine, so that the combination of all of our talents can produce those beautiful things. And, and just constantly, I mean, you know, I can rattle off a billion different experiments that we've run in the past two months to to constantly continue to hone that process and figure out like, Okay, this didn't work, let's run a different experiment. Okay, this didn't work, let's run a different experiment. And just keep that going. Because the secondary thing that comes out of that is the beautiful products that we make.

John Ryan 16:10
It's kind of like the Simon Sinek. You know, you start with the, the, the why, rather than the what? And that why emerged organically? And sounds like it was clarified in the last few weeks when you're doing that mission values vision, kind of clarification, would you mind kind of walking us through a little bit of the process you use to, to come up with that clarification of your direction?

Joseph Young 16:33
Yeah, so we, so we got the team together. And, and our, and a couple of people led this but one of the very first, we basically all jumped onto a zoom, and we had breakout sessions for different activities that we that we ran. And, for example, one of the breakout sessions was here's a whole bunch of adjectives. Let's let's go through this list of adjectives and see what resonates with us, like, you know, and it's like, are you agile? Are you adaptable? Are you this are you that you know, and rank those adjectives and then kind of come back from the breakout rooms and figure out what everybody's adjectives were, this was a perfect example of the mission being revealed. Because what was interesting is that everybody was picking the same adjectives, right? Like everybody with their own pads, you know, our marketing team, and our software team, in our design team, all basically, completely different industries, are all picking the same basic adjectives when it comes to the mission that we're trying to accomplish.

Joseph Young 17:37
And it was never about me, me, me, me, me, me, me, we all just sort of naturally had this inkling of, like, our mission is not, you know, to be the best company ever, you know, and all those kinds of things. It was it was purely about defining what it was that we wanted to do to help our clients and to help our customers, and do do it in the best possible way. So that they could potentially get just a little piece of that space. And that, that that alignment and that kind of process that we got, that we've sort of built so that we could give a piece of that to them. And instead of it feeling like a client relationship, now, it just feels like they're part of us. And we're part of them. And we're working on something together. And we have aligned talents, right, they have a particular industry expertise that we don't have, they might have funding that we don't have, they have, you know, they have connections that we don't have, but we have everything else that wraps that and, and the combination of those two things are just a group of people coming together to combine their talents and build something that, you know, where the money comes from, where the talents come from, is irrelevant to that equation. And I feel like that's something else that people get wrong. And so so it just was a series of activities like that. It was it was you tell us, you know, and and will tell you, because we're all sort of on the same on the same flat surface.

Joseph Young 19:07
What you think Kuvio is like, Where Where do your passions align? What were What do you see has been the eureka moments that you've encountered, or that you've seen others encounter that you want to perpetuate. And, and it led to this, just this kind of general idea that we, we all feel like we're on the right path to defining what the next generation of work could be like. And so our mission kind of at the top line is to basically take those ideas and try to start imparting them into organizations that that, that do have culture issues that do have productivity issues that do have and become through our execution, through our expertise and through all of our hard work becomes sort of The guiding the guiding lights for that new idea to say, Listen, you can build a sustainable company, you don't have to just you know, live off of loans and live off of runway and be you know, never profitable and think that's a, you know, a sustainable company, you can build a 200 year company still in 2020. And but what you have to do is follow those paradoxes and give them the space to do the magic that they do.

John Ryan 20:27
Well, that certainly sounds bigger than we're a software company and a marketing company. And and one thing you said a moment ago, which I want to get into, you mentioned that we're very flat organization. And I love how these ideas are not just ideas, these are principles by which you run the business, you're working less, and you're getting increased productivity because of that engagement. And one of things I thought was really fun is, is on your, your website, you're on the about page where you have the team listed there. First thing I noticed was that your picture is not at the top a lot of time, it's like, you know, here's the CEO, the founder, and then here's everyone else. And you guys are living that, but not only that, when I went back to check it out later on to read more about about Kubo, your picture was, you know, moved, but someone else's was at the top, and then I refresh the page, at least maybe 1012 times, and your picture never came to the top? And is that that sounds like that must have been intentional. And by design.

Joseph Young 21:29
Yes, it was intentional. And the funny thing is, you're the first person to to notice it, it was basically like an Easter egg that I put in that define something for me. And the story is like, every, you know, every company that I've ever worked for, you go to their website, and the only pictures of people that you see, or the CEO, the CTO and cmo and some board members, right? You know, all white guys of course, and and and where's the actual company, right? Like, where are like, the company is not those three people, you know, the company is the other 5000, right? Like you are three and they are 5000. And and people have like most corporations have gone so far. Now as to hard code that power structure into We are the company, right we are the public face of the company, and pretend that they're three or five or 10 people outweighs the other 5000. And that's what that was in response to because I wanted to make clear that I am not at the tall like I am I am I just have a different role to play the role that I that sort of ignites my passions is to keep the hundred thousand foot view so that everybody else doesn't have to keep that view, right?

Joseph Young 22:50
And to inject like, okay, here's a pattern that I see. Because here's all the ingredients of things that are going on. And like maybe if I can inject some things, you know, some ingredients that other people didn't recognize, that might be part that might contribute to a conversation. But I never dictate, and I never say no, this is the way that we need to go, because that's just what my talent is, is of. And then on the software side, I'm an architect by nature, which is the same thing, you know, hundred thousand foot view. But it's no better or worse or different or higher or lower than anybody else on the team. It's just a different job. And most people get that wrong, like they put an organizational chart that represents a hierarchy of communication. But they conflate that with a hierarchy of control. And they say like, you know, if if if all of the vision comes from the founder or the CEO, then he must also have the power to dictate where where the company goes in response to that. And that's where people get it wrong. No, all I can do is preach the vision, and hope that people latch on to it. And if they latch on to it, hope that they do something interesting with it. That's it, that's my entire job, you know, and it's a lot easier than the jobs that I feel like others are playing in similar roles where they are, you know, both trying to communicate and to dictate when the communication falls flat.

John Ryan 24:14
Well, a couple things that that you're saying are kind of jumping out to me one that that detail on the about page, I thought that was phenomenal. Because how you do one thing is how you do everything. And so you truly live in the values of that. So very cool and great to hear that the hundred thousand foot view goes even all the way back to the air traffic controller position. Because you can't focus on any one object on the screen, you got to be looking at the whole field, which is what I imagined you must do as the chief solutions architect in that matter. Do you mind if I asked you a quick question on the air traffic controller issue because, of course that fascinates me. You know, in peak performance was one of the things that I study and help clients with. There's a state of being of the zone when you're doing Your job back in the day, and it's been a while now, when you're looking at all those pieces of information coming together, if you focus on the weeds, you lose the picture, that's a very dangerous situation. Do you have to be like little detail like a peripheral vision? like seeing it all in at an unconscious level? Like how do you manage that moment to moment what to pay attention to? And that and as of course, a metaphor for running your business here? Yeah. Yeah.

Joseph Young 25:24
Um, so it's interesting, because, you know, I've never thought about it from that perspective, but just talking through the, the concepts of air traffic, it always felt like, so yes, you do need to be in that zone, you know, once especially once traffic gets to a point that, you know, you have to simplify and abstracted away to a pattern that makes sense. Instead of thinking that these are all giant hunks of metal moving towards you at 200 miles an hour and towards each other, right? You have to kind of get away from that. But in in a lot of ways. That zone was always reactive, because I'm in a split second, everything can change, right? And so it was it was, you know, I mean, it could be adrenaline driven, or driven by like, okay, we have a problem that we have to solve for, and we only have one way to get it, right, because these planes are not going to stop midair, right, they're gonna, they're gonna keep moving forward. And that, that is the pressure of getting into the zone, at the right at the perfect time. It's interesting, because thinking about that, um, you know, nobody can be in the zone for eight hours a day.

Joseph Young 26:40
And there are tons of books that are written, you know, about getting into flow, and you know, in the psychology of it, and everybody's sort of chasing this idea of how do I just get in the zone where I can just crank out beautiful, you know, things all the time. But then, what's interesting, and I don't have an answer to this, but I'm starting to try and figure out what the balance is here. I'm there also, there's also the reactive side of it, the deadline driven side, right, there's the, you know, I just spent this weekend specifically focused on for the first time in a very long time, a particular project that had a client instituted deadline of today, because the deadline was in pending, that was the only thing that got me to reprioritize. And to put that focus on that because the deadlines there. But at the same time, I'm not a believer, I hate the concept of deadlines. I feel like there's, there's something too still too shallow about the idea of deadlines, even though they work so well, psychologically, I feel like what they're actually doing is just resetting priorities. And, and I'm a big believer in in, if you can get yourself or in your company to a space where instead of being deadline driven, you just have one cue of things that everybody is doing, and that queue is prioritized, and constantly reprioritized and constantly, you know, just constantly groomed, then the best possible thing that your company can be doing is the thing at the very top. And once that thing is done, you do the next thing. And once that thing is done, you do the next. And it's as simple as that.

Joseph Young 28:19
And that is where you get the best possible value. But we live in a world, right. And so what I've been thinking about lately is how do we how do we balance those two things? Like why do deadlines work so well psychologically? And what is the inner guidance of that sort of reactive nature of, you know, being productive and getting your work done Against this backdrop of wanting to have the space for our creative sides to create the best possible thing? Right, every person that writes a novel gets hounded by their publisher until they're done writing that novel, right? But it was at the best possible thing. But the corollary is, would you have ever finished that novel? If your publisher wasn't hounding you? You know, and in most cases is probably no, right? you'll you'll go to your deathbed with a 80% done novel, but you were never able to finish. So I'm very curious about that. It's, it's, it's To me, that's a paradox that I haven't quite figured out yet. But I, but it's interesting that I want to think some more on the reactivity of air traffic and other things like that, as it relates to more deadline driven kind of getting into the zone and getting the flow of things.

John Ryan 29:24
Well, it's a fascinating topic, for sure. And George RR Martin, creator of Game of Thrones, right, he still not done with the next book, right, the series is done. He's like, I'm working on perfecting that one page per day pace that he has right now. So the ideal is, obviously to be in the flow to be in the zone and go and have that list of the cue that you said during the next the next one, next one. And that's based on importance and urgency, right? That's the two dimensions that we typically use. And that's determined by our values. You are right that that actual deadline, it shifts the priorities. It's not more important. Just becomes more urgent. So is that the best place to have creative work? Probably not No, but but but the volume increases. But then if you have volumes of not good stuff, then then that's, that's a tough situation to be into. So in terms of managing that, again, it sounds like the reactive piece that I see coming in tying that back together, the air traffic control, is that you have the flight plan, you know, what you want to do, and there are situations where the world changes, and you have to respond to that this weekend, you had to reprioritize that's a reactionary thing. But it's a strategic thing. You have to do it based on demands your environment, how do you keep your employees, your team focused? On the bigger picture? Because you said you started fully independent? location independent? Right, so fully virtual doing less work? Is there a need for engagement? Like initiatives? Or is it self sustaining? Are you just hiring great people who are self, you know, engaged, I suppose it is.

Joseph Young 31:06
So all of the cultural sort of lessons that we have figured out over the years and experiments that we have made our team self engaging, to, to a degree that you know, no other company that at least I've worked in, and most other companies that I interact with, now, have, you know, have just never, never had, and that's what obviously makes me believe in, in the idea of, of the processes that we're trying to build. The the the other side of that, though, is that there's never perfection, right, there's always a new thing that could maybe push that just a little bit further, that thing always tends to be people like me pulling back a little bit further and disengaging you know, from from the things that I was traditionally engaging in and letting those things take on a life of their own. I think that's one of the, that's one of the sort of tenets of growing a business anyway, right? Like, the more hats that you have to give away, you have to figure out how to give those hats away.

Joseph Young 32:14
But, you know, I mean, we also have to look backwards every now and then. And realize that even though we're, we're, we're still on a path for still trying to figure things out. Our I mean, I think we ran, we ran some numbers a few weeks ago, and just on the software side, our velocity is somewhere between five and 10 times what the industry standard velocity is, and we're able to charge 70% 60% of what everybody else is charging, right? Because they're dealing in the world of waste. And in the world of Oh, I have three giant corporations who are paying trillions of dollars to get basically nothing from a bunch of people working 70 hours a week producing basically nothing because they don't have the space to operate into, in the best possible way that they need to operate.

Joseph Young 33:10
And so, you know, it's a complicated answer to to that question. But, uh, but but, I mean, yeah, so long story short, we're leaps and bounds above most other companies, but there's always, you know, there's always a more perfect place to be. And I feel like that road is never going to end right. Like, there's always another step to make on that journey. to, to really self actualization, right? to finding the way to have a self actualizing group of individuals that are all aligned to common mission is just really something that that that it's, you know, it's just one of my dreams that I'm going to be chasing probably till the day I die.

John Ryan 33:53
Well, you certainly have a lot of passion for what you're doing the the processes that you guys are going through, and are willing to experiment and try will work if you ever had someone come on board of the team who who wasn't a fit and had to kind of work to get them bought in? Or is that something you were able to weed out you know, in the hiring process?

Joseph Young 34:19
So this is this is also interesting. Somehow, and this speaks to also just, you know, us doing the opposite almost to a person the hiring process basically involves you know, a short discussion it's like what are your passions? You know, what are you interested in kind of gauge their jaded Miss, you know, their level of, you know, how far deep into the weeds are they? Or, you know, is there any passion that we can latch on to, and if I, if we see that spark, that's all it takes us. Right, we see this mark, and we're like, we don't even maybe know what you're gonna do for, for us or how it could be aligned. But we're very interested in where the company goes, if you're part of it. And so then we bring them on.

Joseph Young 35:12
And then what happens is, especially depending on, you know, how many more traditional roles that they had, they have, if to a person, you know, probably three to six month adjustment period, that involves I mean, things is, like, almost everybody, for weeks at a time will ghostess just disappear, not have any idea what to do, because they're all of a sudden in this environment where it's like, I don't know, go look for something and figure out what you want to do, by gold, show your projects and see what you're interested in. And like, if you're interested in something, we'll we'll send you there, but like not being told what to do.

Joseph Young 35:51
But instead, being in an environment where it suddenly you have both this power and this responsibility, and just figuring out kind of how to work in that environment is very jarring, seemingly for a lot of people. But once once that happens, and they kind of go, Okay, I think I've got this figured out, they're here for I mean, for life, there is not. I mean, I hesitate to say 100%, cuz I'm probably forgetting a story, but it's close to that, um, every single person that I've ever hired is still here, no matter when I've hired them, they're all still here, and they're all still insanely happy, and they're all still insanely productive.

Joseph Young 36:35
And I feel like that speaks to something that we're doing right. So, you know, I guess to answer your question, it's not about like, I feel like, if we had unlimited money, we could, we could approach anybody on any street, and say, what's your passion and find a place for them, we're never gonna have unlimited money, right. And so the next best thing that we can do is hopefully empower other organizations to take on some of that load, and find different ways of hiring and stop with the power structure of hiring, right, like the best interviewer, that, you know, if you have really good interviewing skills, and, you know, play those kind of politics, you're not, you're not going to be hiring the kinds of people who are going to be delivering the best value for your company. But you're also not going to be doing that until you figure out a way to give them the space to deliver that value. And, and that's the more important thing, right, give, if you give somebody the space, and you and you, as a company, who has, you know, thousands of times more assets than that individual person, it is your job as a company, to be the one in that relationship that is giving the space and is giving the resources and is giving everything possible, right? in the hopes that that that person will take that space and take those resources and give back, right, that's the parent, that's the beautiful paradox of the universe is, if you don't, if you just take that second hop, and first give in first trust, and be patient, that will always come back to you tenfold in relation to those that are just chasing the money or just chasing the productivity and just chasing, you know, the the bottom line.

John Ryan 38:35
Wow, when it becomes immediately obvious, or very deeply obvious that you care about everyone in your organization, and, and humanity at large. So that's good to hear that you're not jaded. In our in our turbulent times that we're living in right now. But but a couple things that jumped out to me when you said, it goes back to the patterns, the patterns, if I can find that, where they're passionate somewhere in their life, I know we can tap into that on the larger vision. So you're looking for that pattern. We're also giving them space, that had been a really kind of interesting experience. The first time you notice that your employee is ghosting you because they're in an like, they don't know what to do because they're not being micromanaged. You're like manage yourself figure it out. And I know it's not as distancing is that but you're really then taking on that responsibility because of that care. That's that's inside of it, which again, is the paradoxical leadership approach, which is very millennial and socially conscious as well. So so thank you for being a role model. An example for that. How important I'm a believer in conversations, how important are conversations in Kuvio and what you guys do as a company?

Joseph Young 39:47
Oh, I mean, communication is everything right? So so and you know, from the very beginning, starting out, purely virtual, we really didn't have a rulebook on how to solve that problem, but that's seems to be the problem. You know, communication and discipline are always the two big problems when people are like, I don't want to work remote, or I don't want to, like, you know, take my company remote, because how are we going to communicate? What about the 30 seconds, you know, that, that those two people might need to spend talking to each other in a physical environment, just, you know, that's worth them communicating here for eight hours a day, just on the off chance that they have that conversation.

Joseph Young 40:26
So we had to figure those things out. And of course, we run experiments. And of course, our bread and butter is slack. You know, 95% of our communication is probably slack based. But But I think what's more important to me is the, the the nature of the communication. A lot of the the sort of breakdowns and communication always seemed to me to happen when there's a power dynamic, right? When it's like, you know, there's a deadline, I told you to do this deadline, you didn't do it, what what now, you know, and then it kind of devolves into that sort of middle manager to worker sort of vacation. At Cobo, the culture that we're trying to obviously propagate is every single person is an expert in their own right.

Joseph Young 41:18
And that every communication that we have with anybody should defer to that other person's natural expertise in the pieces that they are contributing to that conversation. And that sort of active, I guess, global difference. Has that again, paradoxical effect of also empowering you as, as the other side of that communication, when you see that difference to you? It's like, Oh, my gosh, you know, like, well, this is what I think I would do in this situation. And that difference is the thing that empowers both sides, right. And, and so that's what we focused on is is is trying to, trying to kind of guide everybody to realizing that, that every single person on the team has a unique, really specific role to play. I've gone so far as to think and I'm still trying to fight this battle, because it's extra weird. But I've, like, I have this idea of making everybody a director of something. Because I don't like we have, you know, six people who are director of something right, like architecture design, I'm director of, you know, architecture. But following the line of trying to be a flat organization.

Joseph Young 42:35
I like the idea. And I like the word director, better than I like, you know, there are other companies like banks do this a lot. Some software companies have started doing this where everybody's a VP of something. But what does it even mean to be a president right, or vice president, I like that executes the Tauri nature of being called a director. And I feel like that's very related to what we do. And I feel like we, every single person, if given some time to reflect could be like, you know, what, this is the thing that I feel like I contribute to uniquely and and, and they are already the director of that thing. Without even knowing it. And so, you know, stay tuned for, for a company full of directors, if I have my way. But just that general idea, right, is is is is one that I really believe in?

John Ryan 43:23
Would that be similar to your values clarification that as people will stay for a period of time that eventually they come up with their own title?

Joseph Young 43:31
Yes, ever. Yeah. And we're already implementing that. The last few people that we've hired were like, whatever you want to put on LinkedIn, that's fine. We're not hiring you for your title, we're hiring you for you. You find your title and take as long as you need to find that, and it can change, right. But, um, you know, but that title still also hones and it and it and it allows people to sort of define, you know, oh, this is who I go to, this is what this person is passionate about. And especially if that title ends up aligning with their passions, then off they go right and and the best possible way to do that is to let them define their own.

John Ryan 44:07
I love it. Awesome. Joseph, thank you so much for sharing about Kubo and you and your path and your philosophy, and the emerging experiments that you have going on at your organization. What's the best way for people to find out more about Kubo and you and the team that you have over there?

Joseph Young 44:25
Sure. So our website is , which I'm very proud of we got a you know, a year into it. I was very surprised that we got that. But and then as far as me directly you can just email me directly at , I my email box is open for any kinds of conversations about literally anything. I love having conversations with people. And, and I know that I and we don't have all the answers and so we need everybody else's help to help us figure out what The next way of work is, especially now. And so you know, my box is open and I'm happy to chat.

John Ryan 45:07
Fantastic. Thank you so much for being here.

Joseph Young 45:09
All right, thank you.

John Ryan 45:10
And thank you all for listening and watching until next time, develop yourself, empower others, and lead by example.

John Ryan 45:17
Thanks for listening to key conversations for leaders with your host john Ryan. If you enjoyed the show, please let us know. Give us a rating or write a review. For more tools to engage, inspire and empower yourself and others. Visit If you haven't already, you can connect with me on twitter @keyconvo and on LInkedin under JohnRyanLeadership.

John Ryan

Host of Key Conversations for Leaders Podcast, Executive Coach, Consultant, and Trainer

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